There Is No Can Opener
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
AN ECONOMIST, a chemist, and a physicist are marooned on a desert island. Their only food is a can of beans, but they have no can opener. What are they to do? The physicist says: “Let’s try and focus the tropical sun onto the lid—it might melt a hole.” “No,” says the chemist. “We should first pour salt water on the lid—maybe that will rust it.” The economist interrupts: “You’re wasting time with all these complicated ideas. Let’s just assume a can opener.”
This little joke, a favorite among economists, tells us more about the causes and consequences of the 2007-09 crisis than any number of ministerial speeches, Wall Street research ...